Giant Bomb Review


The Legendary Starfy Review

  • DS

This endearing DS platformer is sickeningly cute but a little too light on challenge and complexity.

It's a great-looking game by 2D standards...
Since we're not likely to see another Mario platformer on the DS anytime soon, I was pleased to find out that Nintendo and developer TOSE were finally bringing the Starfy series to the Western Hemisphere. The Legendary Starfy is the fifth game in this aquatic action series and the first to make it out of Japan, and I'd hoped it would scratch the same itch that New Super Mario Bros. did on the DS a few years ago.

Starfy's gameplay isn't as dynamic or satisfying, however, as it was in Mario's last handheld outing. The game's artwork and characters are cute as heck (almost sickeningly so), making it suitable for any DS-playing rugrats you have running around. As a pure platformer, though, it didn't have the chops to satisfy me in the same way other, more refined games (many from Nintendo itself) have done.

The Legendary Starfy is a joy to look at, full of big, colorful, well-animated sprites and a tasteful combination of 2D and (where appropriate) 3D backgrounds. You've got all these exaggerated characters based on all kinds of marine wildlife--starfish, lobsters, clams, a space rabbit (?)--yapping away at each other in nicely animated cutscenes that tell the game's simple storyline.

...but the platforming is a little too simplistic.
The dramatic interludes intrude on the action a little too often for my taste; everyone but the silent Starfy is too talkative for their own good, and though the game was translated into English according to Nintendo's usual impeccable standards, the dialogue is too earnest, and not nearly clever or tongue-in-cheek enough, to warrant the amount of jabbering that stands in the way of the action. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments, though, and the characters are all likable enough, even when you wish they'd just stop jawing and let you get on with things.

When you do get into the gameplay, you'll find Starfy has a rather basic set of platforming moves: double jumps, gliding, a spin attack, and so on. You can team up with your space rabbit friend to assume a few alternate animal forms with special powers, and there's the occasional special level that has you doing things like riding in a mine cart. But mostly, the game is about exploring simplistic levels to look for hidden items, spin your way through some benign enemies, and find the doorway to the next section of the level.

You do get different controls depending on whether Starfy is underwater, where you can swim very quickly, or on dry land, where the game plays more like a traditional platformer. This helps give the gameplay a little more variety, but there were also times where I felt like I was switching between the two styles--which use some of the same buttons for different actions--too quickly to keep up with which button did what. The collision detection is also a little weird in spots, so overall the action doesn't feel as precise as you'd expect it to in a game like this.

Kids will probably love it.
There are a few other features around the game's periphery, but they don't really address the core action. You can collect a bunch of outfits and accessories to dress Starfy up in, but it would be nice if these actually applied to your in-game character rather than just a 3D model in your menu screen. There are a ton of secret levels to unlock outside the main story ones, where you can find more secrets, and you can invite a second player to control Starfy's female counterpart Starly for boss battles and at a few other predefined moments (though the bosses are generally easier to manage by yourself than with another player gumming up the works).

The Legendary Starfy really seems targeted at a younger audience. With its cartoon-like visuals and light challenge level, kids will probably eat it right up--and it's surely a higher quality game than most of the child-oriented DS games on the market, coming as it does with the highly polished sheen characteristic of all Nintendo games. Maybe if Starfy had been around in the Western market for years and engendered the same sort of nostalgia that we older gamers feel for franchises like Mario, I'd be more forgiving of this game's simplistic nature--but as a newcomer to the series, I found myself wanting for a platformer with a little more meat on its bones.
Brad Shoemaker on Google+
22 Comments Refresh
Posted by MassiveDuck

Bummer, I was hoping for a new good, challenging platformer.

Posted by zitosilva

I was already a little disencouraged after hearing what Brad said in the last Bombcast. I'll probably play Starfy eventually, but I'll definitely wait now.

Posted by Zalanth

That's a shame. Looked pretty cool but I guess I'll give it a miss.

Posted by sfighter21

I'm glad you actually took the time to review this Brad...but I don't even own a DS so it doesn't really matter to me anyway, lol.

Posted by Lathos42

I picked this up after reading a positive review on IGN for it.  I KNEW I should have held out for the GiantBomb review.  I agree with pretty much everything Brad says in this review.  Its fun, but not as much fun as I'd like.

Posted by MagusMaleficus

Sadly, I gotta say I felt precisely the same way. It was cute--endearingly so--but not enough to hold my attention beyond the boring adventuring.

Posted by Brendan

Great review Brad, too bad about the game.

Posted by coffeesash

Aww I've never delved into the Starfy series but I was thinking of doing so to get some Kirby kicks. Maybe it's good for that but I already think Kirby is too easy, so... xD

Posted by DrRandle

Eh. I'm still picking this game up. I'm more in Mark Bozon's camp than in Brad's when it comes to this stuff. Nothin' personal, Brad, it's still a good review and your opinion is yours.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

"By 2D standards"?  Man, I've seen some pretty horrible 3D games.  If anything, 2D has it easier.

Posted by Peewi

While I haven't actually played the game, it seems to me that Kirby would be a better comparison than Mario. The art style is very similar to that of the Kirby games on DS and I've heard the gameplay is too.

Posted by RHCPfan24

This definitely looks like a kids-oriented game. Too bad it is too easy for many experienced players to get much out of.

Posted by Crono

While the outcome of this game isn't surprising I am still upset despite the obviousness.  I just wish that Starfy was something that presented a challenge....  Oh well, nice review, Shoemaker.

Posted by EzLink

I bought it after reading the positive IGN review, and I'm loving it so far. Is it easy? Incredibly so. Is it cute? Yes, to the point where its almost unbearable to look at. Is it simple? No doubt. But despite all of this I keep getting sucked in by how much charm and life the game has. Yes its easy, simple, and cute, but I'm still being highly entertained with the games progression, and I'm also having a good time trying to find all of the hidden treasure chests and levels. I think comparing it to Kirby is somewhat fair... Easy, simple, and cute, but it can still be very much enjoyed because of its charm. That's how I feel about Starfy.

Also, I just started following Giantbomb with their E3 podcasts, and I must say you guys are amazing. Bombcast is now one of the highlights of my week.

Posted by Two

I was just about to pick this one up, after the glowing IGN review before I listened to the Bombcast. I destroyed all the DS Kirby games, and the New Super Mario Bros. and even the first Sonic Rush and was hoping this would offer a significant enough challenge to keep me occupied. Clearly I was wrong. I opted to get Lock's Quest instead, try something different... and balanced it out with Metroid Fusion and the originl Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga.

I'm very pleased with my purchases thus far.

Posted by dawnofthesean


Posted by Kohe321

Bummer that it's so easy. Looks charming, though.

Posted by Media_Master

Just for Kids

Posted by dragonfly110

what a shame, I was really excited for this game, the series has always seemed so cool in Japan... I think that nintendo should buck up and make some of there games more hardcore again, or at least re release updated old games (like the original Starfy) to at least satisfy our gaming craze.

Posted by Sustenance

Great review, Brad.  I am enjoying Starfy DS because it's a Nintendo title with nice graphics and animation and it has the whole "OCD unlockable" thing going for it, but it's also the kind of game you can play in your sleep.  And the constant dialogue really gets in the way of the action... it's not as bad as Super Paper Mario, but it's still bad.  It's like: spin through blocks, jump in the air, get pushed around by geysers, then endure another minute of stupid back-and-forth dialogue.  In fact, I think the mini-games are in some ways more fun and challenging than the adventure proper.  (So far it's even easier than Super Princess Peach.)

Posted by Danreb

I don't know why you'd expect the game to play like Mario.  It's developed by TOSE.  Since when did TOSE have their hands on the Mario franchise?

While Starfy is indeed a solid platform game, it's not "too simplistic" at all.  You failed to mention the fact that there are all sorts of hidden routes to take that lead you to secret levels that are more challenging than the default ones.  That, in itself, is reminiscent of the secrets sprawling around the classic Mario sidescrollers, and it gives it a Metroid-like feel in terms of exploration.

As far as meat on its bones, you never even mentioned the minigames, which the Japanese series has been known for for quite a while.  Add the fact that you can play both the main story and minigames with a friend, and you have a game that has quite a bit on its plate.

Not to mention the fact that this is one of the longer sidescrolling adventures to be had on the DS.

You can't expect a complex challenge from Nintendo.  This isn't Castlevania.

Posted by El_Rickhead

could somebody pls explain to me why they havent done a starfox game on the DS yet.
Or an Earthbound port, Street Fighter II Turbo, Pokemon Snap! a new awesome Megaman, Super Smash Bros.
Nintendo have some great aces up their sleeves that they could launch out (Gambit style) but they don't bother...
Sort It Out Nintendo!